A study criticized by environmental groups that examines the potential for development between the north city limits of Fresno and the town of Friant will be discussed by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The 379-page, $120,000 Friant Corridor Study was paid for by development interests to explore constraints and possibilities for future growth in the 5,346-acre area. The study has twice been rejected by the Fresno County Planning Commission.
The study has been opposed by the League of Women Voters, the San Joaquin River Conservancy and the Audubon Society, as well as other local groups.
On Tuesday, supervisors will decide whether to accept the plan as a guide for future growth.
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Fresno County officials point out that the study proposes no land use changes. The county noted six “opportunity sites” along the corridor covering 301 acres, roughly 6 percent of the study area. The remainder of the 5,300 acres should not be considered for development at this time, the study indicates.
Those uses were described as expansion of the Lost Lake Recreation Area, kayak and canoe rentals, recreational fields and potential restaurants and sale of convenience products.
Local community groups contend the study is sorely lacking.
The study may serve as a precursor to a formal plan to urbanize areas northeast of Fresno.
Radley Reep, League of Women Voters
“Although the study’s findings are an endorsement of current planning, residents remain apprehensive,” said Radley Reep, who represents the League of Women Voters. “Residents have turned out in large numbers at workshops and hearings to express concern that although the focus of the study is primarily recreation and tourism, the study may serve as a precursor to a formal plan to urbanize areas northeast of Fresno.”
Based on supervisors’ statements in 2013, when the study was endorsed, some residents are suggesting that the study could serve as a “springboard toward the creation of a master plan designed to support large-scale residential and commercial development northeast of Fresno,” Reep said.
But Darius Assemi, president of Granville Homes, said the study never was meant as a development plan, even though the study area is located near the most popular developed communities in Fresno, areas that include Clovis Unified schools.
“You may find out after you do the study that you can’t develop,” he said. “But if we are serious about creating housing that is more affordable, we need to look especially in northeast Fresno and look at opportunities as long as impacts to the environment are mitigated, especially water.”
The study area covers parts of supervisors’ Andreas Borgeas’ and Debbie Poochigian’s districts.
Poochigian described the study as “a starting point.”
We need to look especially in northeast Fresno and look at opportunities as long as impacts to the environment are mitigated, especially water.
Darius Assemi, Granville Homes president
She said she possibly could support land development in the Friant corridor instead of using prime agricultural land in other places.
“You can always ask more, produce more and do more,” she said of the report. “But it’s a place to start the discussion.”
Borgeas said Fresno County planning commissioners opposed the study on two separate occasions, including a 4-1 vote in March.
“It seems strangely to be a study in pursuit of a mission, with unclear aims and unarticulated measurements, so its outcomes are less than useful,” he said. “It seems premature to even contemplate making any land-use decisions when so little of the studied region could ever be developed.”
Yet, he said, some pieces of the study could be beneficial.
“In the interest of good planning, the board may instead wish to take elements of this study and incorporate them into future general plan discussions,” he said.